Wildcat Service Dogs

I recently heard about the most inspiring thing, y'all.

State Farm's Neighborhood Assist Program provides grant money to deserving charities in all 50 states. The Kentucky charity that just received a $25,000 grant from State Farm combines a couple of my very favorite things -- UK, dogs, and helping others. Wildcat Service Dogs is a training organization based at the University of Kentucky which pairs service dog puppies with college students who train the dogs. The charity's description from the  WSD website does a great job of telling their story:
Wildcat Service Dogs (WSD) is a newly formed service dog training organization at the University of Kentucky that is dedicated to training assistance dogs and raising awareness about the laws that protect them.  All of our dogs are owned by WSD, and upon graduation from our program, they will move onto advanced training at an advanced training organization.
All WSD dogs are raised by college students, who are responsible for the socialization, training and housing of a service dog puppy for up to 2 years.  All of our trainers go through a rigorous selection and basic training process prior to receiving their puppy.  All trainers are required to attend weekly training sessions and monthly socialization outings in addition to writing a weekly progress report.
Wildcat Service Dogs was founded in the spring of 2011, when University of Kentucky (UK) student Katie Skarvan received an assistance dog Goldendoodle puppy to train.  While attending classes at UK, several students approached Katie and asked her how to get involved in the puppy raising process.  A few months later, a second student received a dog to train through this program.  The name of this student is Jennifer Hamilton, and the dog that she raised was an Australian Shepherd x Poodle mix.  The organization grew from there, and WSD officially registered with the University of Kentucky in August of that same year.
This is just amazing, y'all. I mean, college students helping dogs who help the community. What an amazingly deserving cause. And what initiative for college kids to undertake this! And they help gorgeous puppies like Chevy

and Jackson

 grow up into caring, responsible dogs that help people who need them.

Thanks so much to Wildcat Service Dogs for the great work they do for the Central Kentucky community and thanks to State Farm for letting us know about the grant. You can donate to WSD here, or learn more on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Who's inspiring y'all lately?

Woodford Humane Black Friday

Black Friday.

The very words send chills up my spine. I have no desire to get up in the middle of the night and fight the crowds for a half-price TV or sweater, thank you very much. Today, however, Woodford Humane Society is running a Black Friday sale that I can certainly get behind. All approved applicants can adopt a black dog or cat for free.

Now, as y'all know, both of my furbabies have dark coats. I spend a good portion of my days sweeping up black fur. And it just breaks my heart when I hear that darker dogs and cats are far less likely to be adopted from animal shelters. Dark-coated dogs are more likely to be seen as menacing or ill. A lot of times, they simply aren't adopted because they don't photograph well. Not to go all Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial on you, but this is a heartbreaking phenomenon.

From rescue to pearls...
Here at HerKentucky, we're all about pets. Among our seven writers, we have ten dogs, a cat and a turtle. We always believe there's room for one more. So, if you have the means and the inclination, please consider celebrating Black Friday with the amazing folks at Woodford Humane. Tell them Max and Sophie sent you.

Max and Sophie's Guide to Dog-Friendly Kentucky

I'm a crazy dog lady. I don't even pretend otherwise. I'm nuts about my dogs and take them everywhere that they can safely, easily, and politely go.

Max at Fourth Street Live!
Now, my dogs are gorgeous and smart and sweet. But they aren't exactly Paris Hilton purse-dogs. My boy, Max, is an 80 pound Labrador Retriever. Sophie, my girl, is a fifty-pound Lab mix. They don't exactly sneak up on you. But they love to travel and meet new people. Here's their list of favorite pet-friendly Kentucky spots.

Puppy Max in Cherokee Park
Cherokee Park. When Max was just a puppy, we lived in Louisville's Highlands neighborhood. Louisville's amazing park system has been celebrated for so many reasons; dog-friendliness is certainly a big part of their appeal for us! My beau and I walked baby Max to Cherokee Park's "Dog Hill" several times a week. He learned to play catch and meet people and other dogs. He came home good and exhausted after several trips down the steep hill.

Puppy Max in Cherokee Park
Bluegrass Barkery. Lexington's Bluegrass Barkery specializes in safe, healthy treats for your dog. Max celebrated his third birthday there with a fun cookie, which was apparently delicious.

Bluegrass Barkery goodies
Ashland's Central Park. When visiting family in the Eastern part of the state, Max and Sophie love to walk around the park. Soph is a particular fan of the squirrels and dogs, and just loves watching little kids play soccer in their Saturday morning league games.

The Starbucks at Nicholasville and New Circle. Ok, Kentucky has caught up with the rest of the world and now has dozens of Starbucks locations. But, this store, in the middle of Lexington's shopping district, introduced Max and Sophie to "puppy lattes" -- shot cups filled with whipped cream. It was love at first lick!

Sophie gets a puppy latte
The Seelbach. It's no secret that, here at HerKentucky, we love the historic Seelbach Hilton. So does Max. My beau and I have stayed there with Max a few times, and he's always been treated like a little prince. As he prances through the lobby, clicking his nails on the marble floors, I'm reminded that Scott Fitzgerald was once thrown out of the very same establishment. They have their standards.
Max Stayed Here.

The Highlands. Perhaps the most dog-friendly neighborhood I've ever seen. Max has been welcomed on the patios of Molly Malone's, Wick's, O'Shea's and countless other bars and restaurants around Louisville's Bardstown Road. I guess he's done his part to keep Louisville weird.
Max hydrates at Wick's Pizza

Where do your Kentucky dogs like to go?

HerKentucky Charity: Woodford Humane Society

I'm a dog person.

(Ok, I'm one of those ridiculous people who's always photographing her dogs, pampering her dogs, having quilts hand-made for her dogs, and generally making a fool of herself whenever dogs are involved. To-may-to, To-mah-to. Whatever.)

Image via here.
Over the holiday weekend, I found myself in a situation where my crazy dog-person heart was just breaking for a sweet and beautiful dog. She was a timid, gorgeous pit bull who'd basically been given to a family acquaintance for breeding purposes. Here she was, a week postpartum, hot and exhausted, and feeding eight puppies. Her old owners didn't want her. She was being given plenty of food and water, and a good bit of attention, but it wasn't like she was home. As I looked into her blue-grey eyes, I wanted to tell her it was okay.  I wanted to tell her that she and her babies wouldn't be subjected to all of the fear and misinformation that arises in relation to her breed.  Mainly, I just wanted to fix things for her.

Now, my beau has had to tell me time and again that I can't rescue all the dogs, no matter how much I'd like to.  We've rescued two high-energy, high-maintenance dogs, and that's really all that we can handle right now.  (But don't think we didn't consider it.)  Since it wouldn't have been feasible for me to personally save this sweet girl, I found myself wishing that she and her babies lived a whole lot closer to Woodford Humane Society.  I have every faith that they could help her find the loving home she deserves.

 Located just outside Lexington, in the Woodford County town of Versailles, the Woodford Humane Society is a non-profit animal adoption center that cares for the animal population of Central Kentucky.  Fueled completely by private donations, Woodford Humane has an open-door policy, which means that they take in all animals, regardless of breed, temperament, health, or age.   "Regardless of breed" doesn't just mean dogs or cats -- the shelter houses rabbits, birds, pigs, and as you'd expect from the Bluegrass State, horses. The WHS commitment to placing animals is truly astonishing. The national average for animal shelter home placement is 25%; since 2007, WHS has found homes for an average of 97% of their animals.

Woodford Humane maintains its commitment to first-rate animal care through year-round fundraisers, including the Limited Editions calendar, the Woodford Wag 5K, and the Freedom Fest. Please consider donating to Woodford Humane, fostering a pet, or adopting a new friend today.  You don't have to be a crazy dog person to make a difference!

Rescue Dogs

I am, by no means, one of those women that go crazy for animals. In fact, I'm really not much of an animal person at all. I do confess to getting squeally about baby animal nature shows - flash me a shot of twin baby polar bears, baby elephants or baby tiger cubs, and I'm your captive audience. My husband knows this about me, which is why he sent me the following email in late March:

Do you want to get a puppy? I found one that's cuter than a baby polar bear.

We've had dogs in the past, but our lifestyle then featured lots of weekend travel to whitewater rivers across the southeast US. It wasn't conducive to a great life for pets. We'd talked about it for a while. Since I stopped traveling as much, I realized that I got pretty lonely at home by myself on the weekends. I also started running and envied the runners I'd see out with their gorgeous four-legged running mates. I doubted my husband's ability to judge a mere puppy to be cuter than a baby polar bear so I demanded photographic evidence.

He delivered.
This little guy, who we later named Boof, came into the world as a rescue dog. His mother, pregnant with what we think was a planned litter of 13 puppies, was abandoned. She was picked up in Cincinnati, Ohio - the worst possible place for her. For a long time, our neighbors to the north were governed my a statewide ban on "bully" breeds. However, in early 2012, that ban was lifted. Pet owners could choose to own their choice of dog breeds. However, Cincinnati never overturned the citywide ban. It is still in effect. When Boof's mother was picked up by the Cincinnati Humane Society, she was scheduled for euthanization the following day. I don't know the details, but the Sharonville SPCA organization was able to take possession of her and place her in a home rescue situation. On a beautiful day in late March, we made the trip to meet and adopt little Boof.

Of course, the very first item I bought for him was a University of Kentucky dog collar. I’ve gotta hope he won’t remember his Buckeye roots!

As someone who doesn't consider herself an animal person, I've never felt strongly about dog legislation. I was never very informed. I've often held the opinion that responsible pet owners should spay and neuter their pets to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Besides Bob Barker telling me it's a good idea, it just makes common sense. Beyond that, though, I wasn't exposed to the world of bully breeds and the prejudice against them. I have a hard time believing that my sweet, adorable, all-he-wants-to-do-is-cuddle puppy could ever be vicious just because of his breeding. I can believe that he could be taught to be mean, just like the Dobermans I had a run-in with as a kid or just like any other individual vicious dog I've ever heard stories about. I think it just makes sense to blame an individual dog and hold that dog's owner responsible for vicious behavior rather than condemn that dog's entire breed.

If you're considering adopting a pet, consider adopting a bully breed. Be a responsible pet owner and disprove those who assume that viciousness is an inherited trait. Maybe we'll see you at Obediance Class!